It’s hard not to get too excited about a possible Highway 47 realignment.
In case you missed the news, last week the Union Board of Aldermen discussed a cost estimate for a possible realignment project. The work could connect north and south Highway 47 and eliminate the need for drivers to use Highway 50.
I was told many times the project is merely in the idea stages and it’s very, very early in the process. This isn’t going to be something that starts tomorrow.
There’s a lot of moving parts to a project of this size. The Missouri Department of Transportation’s rough estimate placed the work about somewhere between $16 million and $17 million.
Those numbers are large, but also are a nice sign for this project moving forward.
Everyone knows Highway 47 has issues. Union City Engineer Jonathan Zimmermann said there’s something “very wrong” with the road, particularly at the Highway 50 intersection.
Traffic is a nightmare at the wrong times. You know things are bad when you have alternate routes at certain times of the day so you don’t have to use Highway 47.
MoDOT’s figures are based on its preferred realignment plan. Zimmermann said this realignment would extend north Highway 47 through the intersection and over a new bridge over the Bourbeuse River.
From there, the new road would cut between a wastewater treatment plant and Dickey Bub Farm and Home before connecting with the current Highway 47 south.
Zimmermann said the realignment would open the road up to better traffic control. It’s something that the city has wanted for a while.
The project would be a boon for the city and the county and has the potential to ease a major traffic nightmare. What’s not to like?
The alignment isn’t the only problem, but it is a problem. A committee is exploring the possibility of, among other things, adding lanes.
Having four lanes would help prevent the backup, somewhat, but it doesn’t entirely address the added step of having to sit through two stoplights to get from north to south Highway 47.
The ideas to fix the problems are, at this point, ideas. They’re not really close to being implemented. The alignment project isn’t close, but it has at least taken the second step toward becoming reality.
The fact that the city went out and got a cost estimate, even a rough one, separates realignment from the pack of other ideas being tossed around.
I think about it like this — for years my buddy Nate and I talked about going to spring training. Baseball season would end in October, winter would come and we’d be miserable in our frozen homes.
Every December or so, we’d start talking about how this year should be the year we escape the cold and go watch baseball in the Florida sun.
The talks would fizzle out every year and we never took the trip. Last fall Nate and I decided to get serious. Instead of just talking, we decided to see how feasible the plan would be.
Once we got cost estimates of things like flights, lodging and tickets the trip suddenly had momentum. After crunching the numbers and realizing the trip was possible, we went ahead and spent a week in early March watching baseball away from the constant winter cold.
The city of Union is still in the crunching numbers portion of this project. A trip to Florida is a lot cheaper than a new bridge, but the city now knows what it needs. The plan is now tangible.
Union officials have to figure out how to make the numbers work (it’s a lot of money), but that’s the same for every project. The city can begin looking into grants, discussing cost shares and other ideas needed to get the work done.
It’s a little hard to ask someone for financial aid when you have no idea what the project is going to cost. Without having the cost estimates, it’s just another oft-discussed idea that never goes anywhere.
This project may end up dying, but at least the city is trying to jump start something. Let’s hope it moves forward.